Is It Cheaper to Live in Cary or Raleigh?

June 10th, 2024

Moving to | Buying
Is It Cheaper to Live in Cary or Raleigh?

Is It Cheaper to Live in Cary or Raleigh?

Are you debating whether to move to Cary or Raleigh, NC and want to know which is more affordable? Here is all you should know about the affordability and cost of living in Cary and Raleigh. 

Cary, a suburb of Raleigh, is growing rapidly and catching up to the state capital. Both are considered to be among the best places to live in North Carolina. With its proximity to Research Triangle Park and new companies moving here daily, there's no doubt that this area is continuing to change. People from all over the country are looking to relocate to the Triangle region, which significantly impacts the available real estate in the area as well as the cost of living.

Wake and Orange County have experienced rapid growth, with more than 70 people relocating to the Triangle daily. Whether you are moving here for school, retirement, a new job, an easy commute, or a fresh start, both cities offer something for everyone.

When moving to a new area, it's important to ensure that it meets your needs, especially in terms of cost of living. Understanding what you need to live comfortably in an area is crucial in determining whether you can afford it. Fortunately, both cities have lower living costs than the national average.

Keep reading to learn if living in Cary or Raleigh is more affordable. 

1. Cost of Living in Cary

The cost of living in Cary is 6% higher than the national average. However, it's important to note that the cost of living can vary depending on several factors, such as your profession, personal preferences, average salary, and the real estate market. 

Compared to the national average, housing expenses in Cary are 32% higher, and utilities are 2% higher. Groceries in Cary are 8% lower, and transportation costs are 5% lower. Keep in mind that these statistics may not perfectly reflect your individual expenses in Cary, but they do provide a good idea of the cost of living in the city.

Downtown Cary, NC on a sunny day with fountain

The average annual income of a household in Cary is $125,317, which is a 19.1% increase. Cary is a rapidly growing city with new residential areas and job opportunities emerging frequently. However, due to its high desirability in North Carolina, the cost of living is higher compared to other cities and towns in the state.

Here are some categories broken down of the cost of living according to Payscale.

Cost of Living Category Average Price
Median Home Price $593,324
Median Rent Price $1,804 a month
Gas $3.21
Gallon of Milk $2.23
Doctor's Visit $128.16

2. Housing Cost in Cary

Housing expenses in Cary are higher than the national average. However, the actual cost largely depends on factors such as location, neighborhood, housing type, size, and more. On average, the price of a home in Cary is around $609,000, exceeding the national average but down 8% since last year.

Cary offers numerous homes for sale and is widely recognized as a great place to purchase a home. It has been ranked as one of the top 10 areas to live in the United States for various reasons, including its vibrant downtown, newly established neighborhoods, and new construction homes.

The housing market in Cary is highly competitive. Homes for sale typically receive four offers and sell within a few days. In April 2024, Cary's home prices were up 11.8% compared to the previous year due to the high demand for properties in the area. A survey found that 0.91% of homebuyers nationwide were looking to move from other metropolitan areas to Cary.

Cary's neighborhoods are divided into two distinct sections: the east and west sections. The east side, which includes homes in the downtown area and some of Cary's iconic buildings, is considered the oldest. On the other hand, the west side is newer and more affluent, with nearly 100% suburbanization and featuring sprawling neighborhoods, lakes, mansions, and golf courses.

Wealthier homes in a neighborhood in Cary, NC

3. Income in Cary

As of March 2024, the average annual salary in Cary was about $59,095, or $28.41 per house. The 25th percentile of wages in Cary is $41,332, and the 75th percentile is $75,575. However, remember that salaries can vary depending on factors such as occupation and experience. 

The average household income is $160,438, and the poverty rate is 5.18%. Cary is an incorporated town in Wake County and the third largest town in the Triangle, so it is located near a booming city with many opportunities. 

The most popular occupations in Cary tend to be Software Engineer, Software Developer, IT director, and Project Manager, and these tend to have the highest salaries. Some of the top employers in the are are SAS Institute Inc., Xylem Inc., and Deutsche Bank

The city has exhibited significant progress in recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The job market is primed for exponential growth, providing excellent prospects for job seekers. So, if you are moving to Cary, you will be located near many technology hubs, making it a great destination if you are searching for new jobs. 

4. Cost of Living in Raleigh

The cost of living in Raleigh, NC, is 4% lower than the national average. However, it's important to note that the cost of living can vary depending on several factors, such as your profession, personal preferences, average salary, and the real estate market. 

Compared to the national average, housing expenses in Raleigh are 2% lower, while utilities are 2% higher. Groceries in Raleigh are 8% lower, and transportation costs are 5% lower. Keep in mind that these statistics may not perfectly reflect your individual expenses in Raleigh, but they do provide a good idea of the cost of living in the city.

The average annual income of a Raleigh resident is $42,632, which is 12.4% higher than the national median of $37,638. Raleigh is a rapidly growing city with new residential areas and job opportunities emerging frequently. However, due to its high desirability in North Carolina, the cost of living is higher compared to other cities and towns in the state.

Here are some categories broken down of the cost of living according to Payscale.

Cost of Living Category Average Price
Median Home Price $439,640
Median Rent Price $1,337 a month
Gas $3.21
Gallon of Milk $2.23
Doctor's Visit $128.16

5. Housing Cost in Raleigh

Housing expenses in Raleigh are lower than the national average. However, the actual cost largely depends on factors such as location, neighborhood, housing type, size, and more. On average, the price of a home in Raleigh stands at around $427,000, slightly exceeding the national average.

Birdseye view of neighborhood of homes

The current housing market in Raleigh strongly favors sellers, with an imbalance of more buyers looking to purchase homes than there are homes available. Though many homes are still on the market, be prepared for higher prices and quick sales.

As of March 2024, the prices of homes in Raleigh have risen by 5.1% compared to the previous year. Homes typically sell within 16 days of being listed, so quick action is essential if you seek a home in one of Raleigh's prime neighborhoods.

In January 2024, about 3,734 homes were sold in Wake County. Raleigh offers many real estate investment opportunities, whether you wish to rent or buy. The average rental price in Raleigh is $1,237 per month, which is slightly higher than the national average but still more affordable than other major cities, especially for short-term living.

Raleigh's status as a technology, education, and research hub is expected to drive significant economic and population growth through 2024. As a result, there will be high demand for housing, although the total number of homes available in March 2024 was 22% lower compared to last year.

6. Income in Raleigh

As part of the renowned Research Triangle, Raleigh is a hub for high-tech and research jobs. The presence of the University of North Carolina State also generates numerous education-related job opportunities.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal ranked Raleigh as the fifth hottest job market in America and one of the best places in the country to launch a small business. With a median household income of $78,631, Raleigh is undeniably one of the nation's most affordable places to live. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the unemployment rate for individuals 16 years and older in Raleigh is a low 3.3%.

The city has exhibited significant progress in recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The job market is primed for exponential growth, providing excellent prospects for job seekers. Notwithstanding, it is crucial to note that the poverty rate in Raleigh stands at 12.1%, slightly exceeding the national poverty rate of 11.6%. Furthermore, the minimum wage in Raleigh aligns with the national average of $7.25 per hour.

Downtown Raleigh view with orange sunset and buildings in view

7. Is It Cheaper to Live in Cary or Raleigh?

Overall, the cost of living in Raleigh is 4% lower than the national average, while Cary's cost of living is 6% higher, according to Payscale. However, the cost of living in places can vary based on many factors, such as your career, the average salary, the real estate market, and the population. 

Comparing the two places, Raleigh is considered to be more affordable, looking at the overall cost of living as well as the housing cost. Looking at the median home prices in Cary and Raleigh, Cary's houses tend to be a couple hundred thousand more, but keep in mind that it is an average, and there are more affordable houses in each area. 

Cary and Raleigh share a border with each other, but many locals will tell you these two places are completely different and offer many different things for their residents. Here is a comparison chart of Raleigh and Cary's cost of living, real estate, income, and other important factors to help you decide which city is perfect for you.

  Raleigh Cary
Overall Cost of Living 4% lower than the national average 6% higher than the national average
Housing Cost 2% lower than the national average 32% higher than the national average
Median House Price $439,640 $593,324
Median Rent $1,337 a month $1,804 a month
Average Income $42,632 $59,095
Unemployment Rate 3.3% 5.1%

Methodology

We used information from different sources and our data to create this guide to compare Raleigh and Cary to see which area is cheaper to live in. There were various data to use, so we put them together to help you understand Raleigh and Cary's cost of living. 

Above are a few sources we used to gather most of our information about comparing Raleigh and Cary's affordability. 

FAQS

Why is Cary so expensive?

Cary is so expensive due to many things, but mainly because they have run out of land to build on. As a result, prices are increasing, making moving and living in Cary more competitive and expensive. 

How much money do I need to make to live comfortably in Cary?

The MIT Living Wage Calculator estimates that $117,934 is needed before taxes to support a family of four in Cary comfortably.

What is a liveable salary in Raleigh, NC?

Many factors determine what is needed to live comfortably in an area, but in Raleigh, it is estimated that one needs to make about $102,752 to live comfortably.

Driving into downtown Raleigh at night time with the car lights

Is It Cheaper to Live in Cary or Raleigh? - The Bottom Line

Cary and Raleigh share a border with each other, but locals assert that these two places are completely distinct, offering different experiences for their residents. Each area has its own distinct vibe and set of advantages and disadvantages. Your specific preferences for a place to relocate will greatly influence your decision about which area to choose.

One of the most noticeable differences between the two is that Cary tends to be more developed with new construction, while Raleigh is more historic and needs revitalization. When driving through these areas, you will unmistakably feel the contrast. Nevertheless, regardless of your pick, it is a worthy investment.

As these areas continue to grow rapidly, more job opportunities, restaurants, schools, and prime real estate are being developed in and around them. Whether you are relocating to find your dream home, seeking an excellent education, a job, or retirement, each of these cities has something to offer everyone. 

When moving to a new place, it's crucial to ensure that the place meets your needs, especially the cost of living. Understanding the cost of living in an area is an excellent way to determine whether you can afford it or not. Fortunately, these two cities have a lower cost of living compared to the national average.

If you are considering moving or selling, contact us or visit our website. Our team at Raleigh Realty is here to help you with any home buying or selling needs.  

Find your new home Search real estate and homes for sale
Share this post
Ryan Fitzgerald

Ryan Fitzgerald

Hi there! Nice to 'meet' you and thanks for visiting our Raleigh Real Estate Blog! My name is Ryan Fitzgerald, and I'm a REALTOR® in Raleigh-Durham, NC, the owner of Raleigh Realty. I work alongside some of the best Realtors in Raleigh. You can find more of my real estate content on Forbes, Wall Street Journal, U.S. News and more. Realtor Magazine named me a top 30 under 30 Realtor in the country (it was a long time ago haha). Any way, that's enough about me. I'd love to learn more about you if you'd like to connect with me on Facebook and Instagram or connect with our team at Raleigh Realty. Looking forward to connecting!

Related Blogs


What is a Good Salary to Live Comfortably in Raleigh, NC?
If you're thinking about living in Raleigh and want to know how much you need to earn for a comfortable life, here's what you should know about the city's cost of living and average salary.
April 29th, 2024
7 Most Affordable Neighborhoods in Raleigh: Raleigh, NC Affordable Living Guide
Are you moving to Raleigh and are interested in affordable living? Check out Mordecai, Stonehenge, and Wakefield
December 27th, 2023
11 Best Neighborhoods in Cary, NC
What are the best neighborhoods in Cary, NC? The best places to live in Cary are Amberly, Carpenter Village, Cary Park, Lochmere, MacGregor Downs, and Preston.
October 18th, 2023
What’s the Cost of Living in Cary, North Carolina?
Cost of Living Cary, NC Is Cary, NC, an expensive place to live? Let's dive into the numbers around the cost of living in Cary, the average household income, typical expenses, and more! Car...
September 11th, 2022